2 Mar 2016

NZ medics head to Fiji as death toll rises

4:06 pm on 2 March 2016

Medical and surgical teams are heading to Fiji to help out following Cyclone Winston.

A handout photo taken on 23 February, 2016 and obtained on 24 February, shows damage to a school dormitory on Koro Island as aid arrives and the clean-up starts after the most powerful cyclone in Fiji's history battered the Pacific island nation.

Damage to a school dormitory on Koro Island as aid arrives and the clean-up starts after Cyclone Winston. Photo: AFP

Forty-three people have been confirmed dead, up from 42 earlier in the week; homes have been destroyed and infrastructure wiped out as a result of Saturday's category five storm.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement it would send 18 members of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT), with 13 leaving today and five tomorrow.

The two surgical and two medical teams would include nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, emergency medicine specialists and a health planner.

The teams would be based in Suva, the northern Lau island group and Koro Island, and were being sent following an evaluation by four members of the ministry's Initial Assessment Team.

It was the largest ever deployment of NZMAT, which was established following the tsunami in Samoa in 2009.

Ministry of Health Acting Director of Public Health Stewart Jessamine said the risk of diarrhoea and mosquito-borne infections was likely to increase in the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston.

The New Zealand Defence Force and Fire Service have also deployed people to help in Fiji.

A photo taken on 25 February, 2016, and received on February 26 shows Red Cross handing out blankets in cyclone devastated Fiji.

Members of Red Cross hand out blankets on 25 February in Fiji. Photo: Nakita Bingham

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